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Solar plane lands in Spain after three-day Atlantic crossing

SEVILLE, Spain An airplane powered solely by the sun landed safely in Seville in Spain early on Thursday after an almost three-day flight across the Atlantic from New York in one of the longest legs of the first ever fuel-less flight around the world.The single-seat Solar Impulse 2 touched down shortly after 7.30 a.m. local time in Seville after leaving John F. Kennedy International Airport at about 2.30 a.m. EDT on June 20.The flight of just over 71 hours was the 15th leg of the round-the-world journey by the plane piloted in turns by Swiss aviators Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg. "Oh-la-la, absolutely perfect," Piccard said after landing, thanking his engineering crew for their efforts. With a cruising speed of around 70 kilometers an hour (43 miles per hour), similar to an average car, the plane has more than 17,0000 solar cells built in to wings with a span bigger than that of a Boeing 747. (Reporting by Marcelo Pozo; Writing by Paul Day; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)

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Einstein 2.0: gravitational waves detected for a second time

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.,  The ground-breaking detection of gravitational waves, ripples in space and time postulated by Albert Einstein 100 years ago, that was announced in February was no fluke. Scientists said on Wednesday that they have spotted them for a second time.The researchers said they detected gravitational waves that washed over Earth after two distant black holes spiraled toward each other and merged into a single, larger abyss 1.4 billion years ago. That long-ago violent collision set off reverberations through spacetime, a fusion of the concepts of time and three-dimensional space.These gravitational waves were observed by twin observatories in the United States late on Dec. 25, 2015 (early on Dec. 26 GMT). The detectors are located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington.The first detection of gravitational waves was made in September and announced on Feb. 11. It created a scientific sensation and was a benchmark in physics and astronomy, transforming a quirky implication of Einstein's 1916 theory of gravity into the realm of observational astronomy.The waves detected in September and December both were triggered by the merger of black holes, which are regions so dense with matter that not even photons of light can escape the gravitational sinkholes they produce in space. The merging black holes that set space ringing in December were much smaller than the first pair, demonstrating the sensitivity of the recently upgraded Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, or LIGO, facilities."We are starting to get a glimpse of the kind of new astrophysical information that can only come from gravitational-wave detectors," said Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher David Shoemaker. The black holes that triggered the newly detected gravitational waves were eight and 14 times more massive than the sun, respectively, before merging into a single, spinning black hole about 21 times more massive than the sun. The equivalent of one sun's worth of mass was transformed into gravitational energy.The Louisiana site detected the waves first and the Washington state detector picked up the signal 1.1 milliseconds later. Scientists can use the timing difference to calculate a rough idea of where the black holes merger occurred. Scientists say the second detection confirms that pairs of black holes are relatively common.  "Now that we are able to detect gravitational waves, they are going to be a phenomenal source of new information about our galaxy and an entirely new channel for discoveries about the universe," Pennsylvania State University astrophysicist Chad Hanna said.The research, presented at the American Astronomical Society meeting in San Diego, will be published in the journal Physical Review Letters. (Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Will Dunham)

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Google co-founder Page backing two start-ups making flying cars: Bloomberg

Google co-founder Larry Page is backing two start-ups that are working on flying cars, including funding one of them with more than $100 million so far, Bloomberg said on Thursday, citing sources.Zee.Aero, into which Page has poured more than $100 million since it started in 2010, conducts test flights of its prototype at an airport hangar in Hollister, California, Bloomberg said. The start-up has a manufacturing facility on NASA's research center at the edge of Mountain View, the news agency said.Since last year, Page has also been funding another start-up, Kitty Hawk, that is working on a similar competing model, Bloomberg said. Kitty Hawk, which employs about a dozen engineers and has its headquarters about half a mile away from Zee.Aero, is working on "something that resembles a giant version of a quadcopter drone", according to Bloomberg. Page, who is referred to as the guy upstairs ('GUS') by Zee.Aero employees, demanded his involvement in the start-up should stay hidden, Bloomberg said.Page, Zee.Aero and Kitty Hawk could not be reached immediately for a comment. (Reporting by Rishika Sadam in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza)

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Researchers find 39 unreported sources of major pollution: NASA

Researchers in the United States and Canada have located 39 unreported sources of major pollution using a new satellite-based method, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration said.The unreported sources of toxic sulfur dioxide emissions are clusters of coal-burning power plants, smelters and oil and gas operations in the Middle East, Mexico and Russia that were found in an analysis of satellite data from 2005 to 2014, NASA said in a statement on Wednesday. The analysis also found that the satellite-based estimates of the emissions were two or three times higher than those reported from known sources in those regions, NASA said. Environment and Climate Change Canada atmospheric scientist Chris McLinden said in a statement that the unreported and underreported sources accounted for about 12 percent of all human-made emissions of sulfur dioxide. The discrepancy could have "a large impact on regional air quality," said McLinden, the lead author of the study published in Nature Geosciences. A new computer program and improvements in processing raw satellite observations helped researchers at NASA; the University of Maryland, College Park; Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia; and Environment and Climate Change Canada detect the pollution, according to the U.S. space agency. The researchers also located 75 natural sources of sulfur dioxide in the form of non-erupting volcanoes that are slowly leaking the toxic gas. Although the sites are not necessarily unknown, many volcanoes are in remote locations and not monitored, so the satellite-based data is the first to provide regular annual information on these volcanic emissions, NASA said. (Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Scott Malone and Lisa Von Ahn)

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Snapchat raises $1.81 billion in new funding round

Messaging app Snapchat has raised $1.81 billion in funding, the company reported in a U.S. regulatory filing on Thursday, a sign that investor interest is strong despite concerns among some venture capitalists that the platform is struggling to attract advertisers. Venture capital database PitchBook estimated the company's valuation after the financing at $17.81 billion, up from $16 billion at it most recent financing in February. The company, which makes a free mobile app that allows users to send videos, photos and messages that vanish in seconds, did not respond to emailed questions about the financing.Snapchat, headquartered in Venice, California, has faced concerns from big investors familiar with the company that its estimated valuation is not justified because of an uneven revenue stream. Its advertising business, which began last October, is the company's only significant revenue source. But, with a strong user base of 13- to 24-year-olds, the app provides an attractive platform to reach millennials and hook young consumers on brands. The company has more than 100 million active users, about 60 percent of whom are 13- to 24-year-olds.Snapchat early this year raised $175 million from Fidelity Investments in a "flat round" of financing that did not adjust the company's valuation. The mutual fund bought shares at $30.72 each. Fidelity has repeatedly adjusted the estimated valuation of its stake in the company, slashing it by at least 25 percent last year only to boost it by more than 60 percent in February.Investors in this latest round include General Atlantic, Sequoia Capital, T. Rowe Price and Lone Pine, among others, tech blog TechCrunch reported on Thursday, citing unidentified sources. (tcrn.ch/1U95CAK) TechCrunch also reported that Snapchat's revenues in 2015 were $59 million, according to a presentation to investors that was seen by the news site. That's up from $3.1 million for the first 11 months of 2014, sources told Reuters last year. (Reporting by Anya George Tharakan in Bengaluru and Heather Somerville in San Francisco.; Editing by Anil D'Silva and Cynthia Osterman)

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